Staying cool in heatwave. Photo credit: Paulo Evangelista on Unsplash

Record-shattering heatwaves in the Pacific Northwest

Last week, St. Louis was hit with sweltering weather. Now the Northwest experiences record heat. The extreme weather shows that climate change is real and it is here.

Cooling centers across the Northwest have been filling up amidst the climbing temperatures. On Tuesday, weather forecasts show Spokane and Yakima, Washington will reach an estimated 108 and 110 degrees. “I want to ensure that local jurisdictions have flexibility in options that can provide relief from the heat,” said Washington’s Gov. Jay Inslee (D) who removed COVID-19 capacity limitations as municipalities across the state open cooling centers to protect people from the weather.

As well, the neighboring regions like Texas in the Great Plains and California in the southwest are also experiencing major negative environmental consequences such as the consistent droughts, wildfires, rising sea levels, and even busted pipes all amplified by the heat. 

“There wasn’t any power for two days in a row,” stated Los Angeles resident Kjersten Jacson who recently went through a heatwave in Southern California. Although public works sent a notice of temporary electricity loss in the area, the entire area went without power. Jackson continues, “At my grandma’s house, the lights did not come back on until 2 in the morning . . . it started at like 10pm. I thought it would just be over there, but it was over here too.” 

The triple digit highs are not only dangerous, but indicate a shift. The world is getting hotter and the U.S. is experiencing the same. 

The Weather Channel reported on a study led by Michael Wehner of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that found summers have increased 3 to 5 degrees in Fahrenheit. In the research, the Pacific Northwest had the sharpest temperature rise. Currently, the heatwave searing the region indicates how U.S. cities are experiencing more hot weather and for longer periods of time.

. . . .

Global warming does not solely affect the summer, as the winter months in the area are experiencing noticeable changes in intensity. In Winter of 2020,, the midwest was rocked with uncharacteristically cold temperatures that lead to power outages, natural gas supplies freezing, and across the midwest region. Yet, the bills are still due. 

“During the winter months, we did not have heat for a whole month…they didn’t [even] put us in a hotel. My [neighbors] are in their late 70’s with no heat. Unlike other unsavory characters in the building, we pay our rent,” said Shawn Washington who just went through St. Louis’ extremely hot weather. 

Generally, humidity begets rain and with temperatures that reached over 100 degrees in St. Louis last week, the ensuing thunderstorms created more pressure. Yet, despite an improved emission decrease potential, the insane heat and brittle winters in St. Louis are exacerbating public health risks that affect major industries like agriculture. One of them being water shortages both in St. Louis and in the U.S at large

In looking to the future, the aforementioned begs certain questions: How much worse is the situation going to get in the region? Are the water shortages here connected to the rumored meat shortages in the U.S.

Only time and temperatures will tell.

Yolanda Aguilera focuses on culture, policy, and Afro-Latinidad.

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